LAWRENCEVILLE -- Cory Rasmus insists his time in the big leagues isn't the reason for his struggles. But he does concede the timing.
When Rasmus left the Gwinnett Braves to join the Atlanta Braves he departed as the team's strongest reliever and the closest thing they had to a closer. He had seven saves and a 0.93 ERA. He had allowed three runs, two earned on the season, hadn't given up a home run since his first outing and struck out 21 batters to just nine walks. He had allowed eight hits and gave up more than one in an outing just once.
Then, he went to the big leagues.
He made his major league debut on May 22 against the Minnesota Twins and struggled over 1 innings allowing two runs off of two home runs. Five days later he returned to the mound for the Atlanta Braves, this time pitching two innings and allowing another home run and three earned runs. He also gave up a double to his brother Colby Rasmus.
"Up there, you kind of put it on a pedestal, it's the best of the best," Rasmus said. "I feel like the first time I went up, it was me, I can play with those guys just like I do here, but at the same time I feel that I made them out in my head to make them better than they really were."
And facing his brother didn't settle any nerves in his second outing.
"I was more excited the second time than I was for the first time," Rasmus said. "That was the best I could have asked for, having a chance to play against (Colby). Obviously, he got a hit, it wasn't how I wanted it to be. Just that experience and that happening, it was awesome."
He's been far from that since returning to the G-Braves. He threw a scoreless inning in his first outing, but since then, the 25-year-old right hander's ERA ballooned from below 1.00 to 2.33 entering this weekend. In those seven outings he's walked eight and allowed seven hits. In the 20 prior, he walked only nine and gave up eight hits.
"I've been walking a lot of guys, getting behind a lot of guys," Rasmus said. "I don't believe that is really who I am. I have been afraid of letting them hit it because, obviously, the other day I gave up quite a few home runs. I just have to get back to what I was doing before. I have to be more aggressive and believe in my stuff again."
This is Rasmus' second full season pitching out of the bullpen after tying for the lead in appearances for the Class AA Mississippi Braves, going 3-5 with a 3.68 ERA last year. A pitcher with a wide arsenal, Rasmus throws a two- and four-seam fastball, a slider, curveball and a change-up. When he was drafted in 2006, Baseball America called his curve the best in the Atlanta Braves farm system.
"I have some swing and miss stuff, I guess at times," Rasmus said. "That's not really my goal to strike them out. I want to get ahead of guys. If I get two strikes, then I try to strike them out. But other than that, I am not going out there pitch one trying to strike a guy out."
Admittedly a constant tinkerer with his pitches, Rasmus said he prefers to maximize his appearances to get his best feel for his pitches. During his back-and-forth with the Atlanta Braves, he didn't see nearly as many outings.
"Obviously, the more outings you get the more comfortable you can get, the more feel you can get," Rasmus said. "I think I got away from what I was doing and, obviously lost a little bit of my feel. But I am getting better now.'
After his disastrous outing against Syracuse where he gave up three runs off of three hits including a home run, blowing a 7-5 G-Braves lead in the ninth (he did get the win after a Gwinnett rally in the bottom of the ninth), Rasmus returned three days later and needed just 12 pitches for a perfect inning and his ninth save.
"It's not anything to do with going up (to the big leagues)," Rasmus said. "It's just about getting a feel and getting comfortable. It's really about getting ahead of guys, that's what it's all about."